Disclosure: This post is made possible by support from the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign. All opinions are my own.
Being a mom isn’t easy. For most of us, it takes love, patience, kindness, sleepless nights, tears, and a few bumps and bruises along the way. Motherhood is a mission of resilience as you are faced with so many different obstacles on a daily basis. Things usually never go as planned, and you find yourself wondering if you are even doing a good job. But what if you had to add more to that? What if you were a mom that contracted HIV and was raising children, one of whom was born HIV positive as well? How would you cope? How would you fight the good fight?
Just when I thought I had a story to tell, I met Michelle and Masonia. And then it became clear to me that my problems pale in comparison. And despite that, they’ve found a way to stay positive while sharing their stories to help others.
Michelle came to this country an immigrant, and spent her younger teen years adapting to life here in the states. She contracted HIV from her partner and ultimately gave birth to a daughter who was born with it as well. As a single mom of two, Michelle persevered and and triumphed despite her status, and is also a breast cancer survivor as well. While on a conference call with the CDC, I got a chance to hear her story firsthand. I heard her fighting back the tears, I heard the pride in her voice while she talked about her kids, and I could feel her passion for helping others so they don’t have to go through what she went through—and is going through.
During the same call, we also met Masonia, a young mom who contracted HIV from an ex-boyfriend. She discussed getting tested after seeing a woman wearing a shirt that spoke of knowing one’s status. Seeing that shirt and acting on it may have saved her life, as early detection is critical. Masonia also helps to educate others about HIV and the importance of practicing safe sex and getting tested. She is a mom who wants to work to have an “HIV-free generation”.
Michelle and Masonia are mothers like me. They are fighters like me. They’ve overcome so much like me. But they are HIV positive. And with that comes a negative stigma that they have to fight everyday. That stigma crucifies. It hurts. And it can be harmful to not only them but their sons and daughters as well. We all need to work to fight that stigma while educating each other about HIV. No judgment is needed.
I applaud Michelle and Masonia for living in their truths and for walking boldly with the purpose they’ve been given. It is this purpose that inspires others to make a difference as well.
You can do your part by getting to know the Let’s Stop HIV Together campaign, which raises awareness about HIV and the affect that it has had on the lives of all Americans. It was created to show that people living with HIV are real people, just like Michelle and Masonia. They are mothers and fathers, they are your family members, they are your friends, they people who deserve to be treated as such. HIV does not discriminate and there are more than one million people currently living in America with HIV. They have voices. They have stories.
You can also learn more about Michelle’s story by watching her video below:
Masonia also shares her story in the video below:
Please share this post with your friends and family so they too can help fight the stigma. Let’s Stop HIV Together!